You never thought you’d be alone this far down the line, but I know what’s been on your mind…you’re afraid it’s all been wasted time. – The Eagles
A decade ago, upon turning 40 years of age, I pontificated about the occasion and put a pretty positive spin on it. I could do the same now, but it would be intellectually dishonest. The truth is that the last few years have given me way too much time to reflect and ample opportunity to compare my life against others, which I know is useless & dumb, but we humans do alot of dumb stuff. My words here are not meant to be a “poor me” kind of thing nor a cry for help. This is simply a candid evaluation on a significant occasion which will be cathartic for me and perhaps helpful to anyone else with similar feelings. It should be noted that, while I’m not jumping for joy neither am I curled up in a fetal position contemplating a purposeful end to my existence. I consider myself unsatisfied & unfulfilled, but not unhappy. Does that sound crazy?? Perhaps…but it makes sense to me.
My father has always taught us that there is a difference between being alone & being lonely, and I finally understand what he means. Being alone was rarely a burden. As an introvert I actually enjoy…perhaps need…a certain level of solitude. That being said, I’ve watched many friends, acquaintances, and classmates get married & raise families. I’ve observed their children grow up from afar. Quite a few of my peers are actually grandparents now!! None of that really bothered me until fairly recently, but now I feel as though I missed out on so much. Realizing that I don’t have anything to offer another person because I’ve been in survival mode my entire life has been a hard pill to swallow. A combination of health issues, poor choices, and self-inflicted inertia means that I do well just to take care of myself, let alone be the kind of husband a woman desires & deserves. The flip side of that coin is that, after serving time in various medical facilities and literally being unable to get out of bed for long stretches, I have a unique appreciation for small things. Sleeping in my own place, eating my own food, going to a show on occasion, reading a good book, watching an exciting football game, and other simple pleasures mean a lot, and for that I am thankful.
I have this idea…or maybe it’s more of a hope…that when we get to Heaven someone shows us all the forks in the road along the path we took in life, which could be either really cool or pretty painful for a person. Without boring The Manoverse with details I will just say that I think I can identify those key moments in my life with a high degree of accuracy, and more often than not I’ve gone down the wrong road. I occasionally joke that I used to be smart (because I did well in school) but I’ve gotten dumber as I’ve grown older. The truth is that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was back then, and only now can I recognize just how many wrong decisions I made.
Another thing Dad has always said though, is that one doesn’t need to look too far to see people in much worse circumstances than yourself, and that axiom has sustained me because it is absolutely true. I have gotten frustrated thru the years when people make a big deal out of fairly commonplace things…the fact that I live independently, that I graduated from college, that I drive a vehicle (admittedly not very well)…because those things aren’t a big deal to me, but the fact that medical professionals thought I might die as a baby and now I’ve hung around a half century is a sobering thought. I have friends, neighbors, & family that battle different health issues than me but that doesn’t mean they are any less challenging. I know folks who have endured unimaginable tragedy and still get up to fight another day. I’m not wealthy by any stretch, but I know many people who have less than me. All in all things could be worse. That may not be as inspiring as you’d prefer, but it’s the best I can do.
So, now I am 50 years old. What does life look like going forward?? I won’t be making any more bucket lists because further lack of achievement certainly wouldn’t brighten my outlook, although I still believe some of those old goals are reachable. My objectives are no longer grandiose because I prefer to keep it real nowadays, but I do hope to make some sort of meaningful impact on society before it’s all said & done. My window of opportunity to marry & procreate may be closed, but I wouldn’t be opposed to finding a nice gal with whom I could spend quality time. I’ll hold any other hopes & dreams close to the vest, but just know that I haven’t completely lost faith in myself or given up on the possibilities life may offer.
I’ve referenced this on previous occasions, but it seems appropriate to do so again. To paraphrase Tom Hanks in the film Cast Away (which is sadly underappreciated by the masses), I have to stay alive…have to keep breathing, because tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide could bring. My life isn’t what I dreamed it could be four decades ago, which is mostly my fault, but a) it’s not too bad, and b) I’m not done yet. Author Victor Hugo opined that “40 is the old age of youth, while 50 is the youth of old age”, which is rather encouraging. Hebrews 10:23 says “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Isaiah 40:31 states that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength”. I can’t change the past, but hope allows me to embrace this as a truly happy birthday.